Vol. 3, No, 1 Journal of the School of Environmental Studies & Planning, Sonoma State University Fall, 1979
IN SEARCH OF...
Roots and Shoots
Interview with Dr. Stocking
"When I travel I usually do so with specific goals in mind," stated Dr. Ken Stocking, ENSP founder and Professor Emeritus, in a recent interview. Since retiring last June 30, Dr. Stocking and his wife, Mary journeyed to the British Isles in search of their families "roots" and to visit the internationally famous gardens at Findhorn, Scotland. Another educational highlight of the trip was a short visist to the Center for Alternative Technology in Wales.
Queried about his first impressions of Findhorn, on the northwest coast of Scotland, Dr. Stocking enthusiastically grinned and replied, "I had travelled a long way to see Findhorn and of course I had high expectations of finding a very
special place. It was raining when I arrived by taxi, from Foress, Scotland. There were trailers, small homemade houses and a wonderful garden tended by seemingly happy and healthy individuals. Findhorn is a cold northern area sharing the same alititude as Sitka, Alaska, and yet plants appear to grow well here; for instance, snap dragons 8 feet tall and 80 pound cabbages."
Dr. Stocking believes the relationship between the people and the plants explains why this is so. "The eight regular gardeners talk to and relate to the plants on an individual person to individual plant basis. Since I am a Plant Ecologist by training, I believe plants have personalities; this may provide a reason why they thrive so well."
A second possible explanation for this very unique phenomenon was the community's effort to improve the sandy soil by adding sheep manure collected from near-by pastures. Dr. Stocking compared this to hydroponics where plants are cultivated in mineral-enriched water. By adding necessary nutrients, the sand becomes a favorable environment for plant growth and development .
Dr. Stocking expressed great admiration for the arrangement of the caravans (trailer houses) around the gardens. These, combined with bushes, protect the plants from harsh winds and also raise the temperature to a more favorable life-sustaining degree. Some of the basin-like areas enclosed within these protective barriers slope toward the sun so adequate light falls upon them most of the time.
According to Dr. Stocking, Findhorn is moving toward emphasizing the human environment as well. Increasingly the community wants to explore how people, relate to each other as people, and in doing so, to pursue the peaceful world of humanly love. Their attitude remains positive despite the presence of a NATO air base close-by. As one member stated, "Everything happens for a reason and maybe we will eventually have an impact upon the base."
"A somewhat different atmosphere exists at the Center for Alternative Technology in Wales," Dr. Stocking said. "It is associated with the University of Wales, and a more formal organization prevails. However the Center is involved with methane production, three gardens - organic, urban and suburban - some solar systems, and a collection of many types of windmills, each producing different amounts of power."
Dr. Stocking first came to Sonoma State University in 1963 and served as chair of the faculty, 1st chair of the Biology Department, founder and provost of ENSP from 1972-76 and chair of the
Cluster School Division from 1975-77.
After his retirement last spring, he was named Professor Emeritus and continues to teach one class each semester. He is also involved with local environmental issues as President of Sonoma County Tomorrow, and as a member of the Advisory Committee considering Sonoma's Coastal Plan.
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